SBS and ALA: Together at last...almost

The notion of merging the organizations into one entity is not longer a notion, but now that the voting is over, the work begins

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CHICAGO & DANBURY, Conn.—May 5 saw the members of the Association for Laboratory Automation (ALA) and the Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS) vote overwhelmingly to approve the plan to merge the two organizations as the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS)

The inspectors for the proxy voting process for SBS and ALA report that two organizations exceeded their quorum requirements by 124 percent and 218 percent, respectively. More than 95 percent of the votes were in favor of the merger.

With the merger, ALA and SBS will now be two individual sections of SLAS, with each of them continuing to pursue their current missions while collectively addressing the SLAS mission, which is "to provide forums for education and information exchange to encourage the study of and improve the science and practice of laboratory automation and screening."

"SLAS will become the premier international community dedicated to advancing scientific research and discovery through laboratory automation and screening technology," says Dr. Michelle Palmer of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the inaugural SLAS president.

Expressing gratitude for the SBS and ALA members' enthusiastic support, Palmer notes, "We will celebrate today—and then get to work tomorrow. We are now faced with one of the most important steps in the evolution of our organizations. Our current objective is to bring the two organizations together over a transition period of about a year. And, of course, we will be looking for members join us and contribute as volunteers on many of the new SLAS committees and working groups."

The roughly yearlong transition period was something that ALA's treasurer, Jason Abbas of Syngenta, also alluded in an interview with ddn before the vote had yet taken place. There are many things to consider, he noted, among them the need to consider the future directions of the ALA and SBS publications, whether to merge their annual meetings after 2011, where to headquarter the SLAS (Chicago is the likely choice for that), and more.

"The SLAS board during that time will be looking at all potential opportunities," Abbas said. "While a merger would strengthen and advance common missions and goals, what will absolutely be retained are the unique individual histories and identities of SBS and ALA. Their  respective missions will always be at the forefront, even as we look toward shared needs and goals."

"During this transition period, the new SLAS board of directors, together with the leadership of the SBS and ALA sections, will be working to develop and unveil a longer range strategy and educational vision for all activities under the SLAS umbrella," says Greg Dummer, the CEO of SLAS.

"We will laser-in on the fundamentals of organizational transition throughout the next year to ensure the members of both organizations feel welcome in their new society, and continue to receive valued member benefits and services," Dummer adds. "Our objective right now is to be ready for business as a united new entity sometime later this year. With the traditional SBS and ALA conferences and exhibitions set for the first quarter of 2011, we have to maintain a high level of focus and determination; and we must look to appropriately blend some aspects of SLAS into each of these events."

Abbas predicts that one of the key gains will notice from the merger "will be the ability to cross-fertilize and learn from other industries that ALA or SBS currently serve and have the benefit of tapping knowledge from agro-chemicals, biotech, chemical, energy, food and other vertical industries."

"Having membership in both of the current organizations will mean members gain the ability to read the quality scientific journals from the other organization and tap into the scientific knowledge there, and that, in the end, is largely why people join non-profit scientific organizations—to access as much of that kind of information as possible," says Jeff Paslay of Pfizer, who is the past president of the SBS.

Business as usual

SLAS CEO Greg Dummer emphasizes that the SLAS transition process will follow through as planned and presented on the merger Web site, which includes information regarding ongoing services, office logistics, and personnel decisions. From an educational content standpoint, Dummer said that both scientific journals—Journal for Biomolecular Screening and Journal of the Association for Laboratory Automation—will continue their publishing schedules; and that immediate short-term educational programming includes:

  • 2010 ELRIG Drug Discovery Conference & Exhibition, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom, Sept. 1 to 2; Biomolecular Sciences Section Short Courses
  • Introduction to Biomarkers and Their Utilization in Pharmaceutical Science, Virtual Course Series, Sept. 9 to 30; Biomolecular Sciences Section
  • Advanced Applications Across Academia, Government & Industry, Sheraton Imperial Hotel and Convention Center, Durham, N.C., Oct. 18 to 19; Biomolecular Sciences Section
  • Innovation in Drug Discovery: Science and Technology, Pudong Shangri-La Hotel, Shanghai, China, Dec. 7 to 9; Biomolecular Sciences Section
  • LabAutomation2011 Conference & Exhibition, Palm Springs Convention Center, Palm Springs, Calif., Jan. 27 to Feb. 2
  • 25th Chemtech World Expo 2011, Bombay Exposition Centre, Mumbai, India, Feb. 23 to 27; Laboratory Automation Section Courses
  • SBS 2011 Annual Conference & Exhibition, Gaylord Orlando Convention Center, Orlando, Fla., March 27 to 31

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